Growth of bioenergy
Photo by MiikaS on Flickr
As the U.S. seeks new renewable energy sources, biomass is often the cheapest and most readily available energy feedstock. The demand for biomass resources for bioenergy production will increase.
- Bioenergy will be the fastest growing source of electricity in the U.S. over the next 25 years, growing from 1% to 5.5% of electricity produced in the U.S. by 2035, without any policy interventions. New energy or climate policies could drive the percent of energy from biomass much higher.
- Biofuels are projected to account for 60% of the projected growth in total U.S. liquid fuel consumption by 2035.
- Demand for wood biomass will grow by 38 million green tons in the next four years. That’s the equivalent of adding 20 to 30 new paper mills.
- Southern states are expected to see a 35% increase in wood bioenergy facilities. Demand for wood biomass could increase 75% in the South alone.
The upside to bioenergy production
Creation of new bioenergy markets could improve sustainability of farms and forests, under appropriate conditions. New markets for biomass resources could:
- Improve management: Bioenergy markets could fund ecological restoration, improved forest management, and insect and disease control.
- Improve economics: New markets for landowners could create new incentives to keep forests as forests and encourage farmers to plant less nutrient-intensive crops.
The tough questions
The development of new biomass markets is an important, complex process that cannot be left to chance. Consider these challenges:
- Most working lands are currently in use, and most biomass resources already are being used for economic and ecological benefits.
- Bioenergy markets could improve land management – or could intensify management across broad swaths of the landscape, resulting in net carbon emissions, less wildlife, reduced water quality and loss of important natural communities.
- While new markets offer job creation, shifting biomass from existing markets to new uses could potentially push existing users out of business, resulting in a net loss of jobs. The pulp and paper industry, for example, provides high-paying wages in many rural communities; jobs that could be impacted by new bioenergy facilities.
- Even low levels of bioenergy production could significantly impact farms and forests.
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EDF was founded by scientists, and we base our work in facts and results.